Sri Lanka regained the Asia Cup trophy with a comfortable five-wicket victory over defending champions Pakistan, riding on Lasith Malinga’s five-wicket haul and opener Lahiru Thrimanne’s fluent century.
Sri Lanka were clinical as they restricted Pakistan to a modest 260 for five and then overhauled the target with 22 balls to spare to lift their fifth Asia Cup title. The last time they won the regional championship was in 2008.
Malinga pegged Pakistan back as he demolished the rival top order with his fierce pace and it was Fawad Alam’s magnificent unbeaten 114 that guided the holders to a decent total after deciding to bat.
Pakistan skipper Misbah ul Haq (65) and Umar Akmal (59) too batted with determination with fighting half-centuries as none of other Lankan bowlers could take a wicket.
Alam added 122 runs for the fourth wicket with Misbah and 115 with Akmal for the fifth at Shere Bangla stadium.
The Island nation had started brilliantly but spinner Saeed Ajmal removed Kusla Perera (42) and Kumar Sangakkara (0) off successive balls in the 11th over to take the fight to the rival camp.
However, Mahela Jayawardene (75) perfectly timed his return to form as he joined Thirimanne at the crease and added 156 runs for the third wicket in 27 overs. The partnership pushed Sri Lanka close to win.
Thirimanne scored 101 runs, his third ODI century, and faced 108 balls in his innings which was laced with 13 fours.
The left-handed batsman was bowled by Ajmal when Sri Lanka were just 14 runs away from the win. Bowling his final over, Ajmal beat the defense of Thirimanne with a ‘doosra’.
For Jayawardene, it was his first notable contribution for Sri Lanka in this tournament and it could not have come at a better time. He was dropped on 52 by Mohammed Hafeez off Umar Gul but was dismissed when he attempted a big shot off Mohammad Talha and found Sharjeel Khan.
His 75-run knock came off 93 balls with 10 boundaries including a six while Thrimanne.
The Lankan openers, Thirimanne and Perera, ensured that gave them a decent start, putting on 56 runs in 10 overs.
Ajmal briefly turned the match around for Pakistan when he had Perera stumped and trapped the in-form Sangakkara with a doosra in the next ball to bring on an out-of-form Jayawardene.
The former Lankan captain, who had 36 runs from his last four innings, lived up to the team’s faith as he calmly went about the chase with Thirimanne playing the lead role.
Luck too aided the Lankans when Thriminnne was dropped on 36 by wicketkeeper Akmal while Jaywardene’s appeal was turned down by umpire Bruce Oxenford in the same 20th over.
For some strange reason, Pakistan’s main weapon in Ajmal was taken out of the attack after the 15th over in a seemingly defensive strategy, a move continued…